April 16 is National Healthcare Decisions Day

Russ Krengel Healthcare

National Healthcare Decisions Day is an annual collaborative initiative of national, state and community organizations, committed to awareness and to ensure that all adults with decision-making capacity in the United States have the information and opportunity to communicate and document their future healthcare decisions.

NHDD is a series of independent events held across the country, supported by a national media and public education campaigns. In all respects, NHDD is inclusive and brings a variety of players in the larger healthcare, legal, and religious community together to work on a common project, to the benefit of patients, families, and providers. A key goal of NHDD is to demystify healthcare decision-making and make the topic of advance care planning inescapable. Among other things, NHDD helps people understand that advance healthcare decision-making includes much more than living wills. Read more about NHDD’s founding.

Despite recent gains in public awareness of the need for advance care planning, studies indicate that most Americans have not exercised their right to make decisions about their healthcare in the event that they cannot speak for themselves.

Why is this so important? Completing your Advance Directives – which includes Health Care Power of Attorney and Living Will forms – empowers you to have a voice in your future care by communicating your preferences based on your wishes, values and goals.

Making these choices while you are still healthy and then sharing the documented plan with loved ones and doctors is the best way to make sure your choices will be honored should you become unable to speak for yourself. 

Planning for future healthcare choices does not happen overnight, but it need not be a scary process. It can start with a family conversation around the dinner table. Allow time for thought and consideration of the options. Sharing your choices through conversation is an important first step. In the long run the conversations will be the greatest gift you can give to those you love. It will give them the confidence to act knowingly on your behalf and provide the comfort of knowing that your wishes will be honored.

In honor of Healthcare Decision Day, we encourage you to:

Have a Conversation

Having a conversation, openly and honestly, before a medical crisis happens puts everyone on the same page about what matters to you at the end of life. Making your wishes known in advance relieves your loved ones and healthcare providers from having to guess what you would want if you were ever to face a health care crisis.

Complete Your Advance Directive

There are a variety of resources available to guide you in the completion of your advanced directive. One free option for local resources and education is through the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization

Spread the word about Advance Care Planning

Help raise awareness on the importance of advance care planning. First and foremost, lead by example! After you have thoughtfully considered and made your own healthcare decisions known, share your experience with friends and family. Visit NHDD.org for ideas on ways to start the conversation with others.

Across the country on NHDD, every healthcare facility will participate as the flagship venues for the public engagement. Because of the Covid19 crisis, obviously adjustments will have to be made to take the information and education online as we can’t assemble in public. Other participating organizations/facilities that have their own physical spaces would normally engage in activities. Those organizations that lack physical spaces will work in conjunction with others or at non-healthcare venues (libraries, grocery stores, drug stores, etc.) to support the initiative. A variety of churches, synagogues, and mosques around the country will also support the effort by highlighting the importance of advance care planning with their congregations.

NormalNHDD-related events will be cancelled because of the ongoing pandemic; yet, advance care planning remains as important as ever.
If you are looking for ways to celebrate NHDD virtually, check out this blog post for ideas. Everyone should be aware that advance care planning is a gift to loved ones. Studies suggest that most of us know that we should “Have the Talk” but only about a quarter of us have. People should mark their calendars for April 16, assemble their loved ones, and just do it. Sometimes we just need a catalyst. National Healthcare Decisions Day is it.